Lawyer targets crucial witness
Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/24/2011 07:44:59 PM PDT
Closing arguments in the trial of two Los Angeles area businessmen accused of bribing a San Bernardino County supervisor’s chief of staff concluded Tuesday with celebrity defense attorney Mark Geragos chipping away at the credibility of the prosecution’s key witness.
Geragos told the nine-woman, three-man jury in San Bernardino Superior Court they shouldn’t believe anything Bob Page, former chief of staff for Supervisor Josie Gonzales, told them during his testimony.
He said Page had been in cahoots with brothers Arshak and Vartan Kouladjian for at least a year, shepherding the development of their Bloomington auto auction business in exchange for cash and nearly $20,000 in home improvements before the two brothers were
arrested outside the Black Angus restaurant in San Bernardino in February 2008.
Page is now the principal management analyst for special projects for the county,
District attorney’s investigators said they found a white envelope stuffed with 150 $100 bills – $15,000 – in Vartan Kouladjian’s back pocket at the time of his arrest.
The cash, prosecutors allege, was intended for Page, whom the Kouladjians were expecting to meet at the restaurant for lunch but were instead met by district attorney’s investigators.
The two brothers are each charged with two felony counts of bribery and one felony count of attempted bribery.
The jury begins deliberating today.
In his closing argument Tuesday, Geragos said his client, Vartan Kouladjian, never intended to bribe Page. The $15,000 in cash he gave Page during a lunch meeting in January 2008 was a gift for Page’s help in trying to get the brothers an occupancy permit and the county to pay for the widening of Slover Avenue, the attorney said.
The Kouladjians contributed $35,000 to Gonzales’ campaign in 2007, earning them special access to Page and Gonzales, Geragos said.
The $35,000 was donated to nine community organizations and charities in Bloomington in March 2008, including the Bloomington Boosters 4-H, Bloomington High School Future Farmers of America and Bloomington Community Boosters, among other organizations, according to information provided by Gonzales’ office on Tuesday.
Page had more than 100 email and telephone contacts with the county Land Use Services and Public Works departments about the Kouladjians’ project.
Page’s continual contact with the Kouladjians for more than a year and the fact that the Kouladjians believed they had Page’s support due to their $35,000 contribution to Gonzales’ campaign erodes the prosecutor’s allegations they needed to bribe Page, Geragos said.
“It undercuts the entire stupid case they’ve presented you with over the past six weeks,” Geragos told the jury.
He said Page destroyed evidence by shutting off his body wire during an undercover investigation and lied on the witness stand when he said he was unaware of a $19,500 estimate by one of Arshak Kouladjian’s associates for work at a new home Page was buying in 2007.
“Bob Page should be on trial here,” Geragos said.
Prosecutor Michael Abney said the Kouladjians’ Bloomington project was facing multiple roadblocks and their $35,000 contribution to the Gonzales campaign wasn’t cutting through the red tape.
“So they resulted to bribery,” Abney told the jury.
He said the $19,500 proposal for work at Page’s home was manufactured by the Kouladjians in an effort to help their case.
Arshak Kouladjian first tried bribing Page in October 2007, when the two met for lunch at the Black Angus restaurant in San Bernardino and passed a white sealed envelope stuffed with $15,000 in cash under the table to Page, Abney said.
When Page refused the cash, Kouladjian offered him a new car, Abney said.
Page reported the alleged incident to the District Attorney’s Office, which launched an undercover investigation and had Page wear a wire.
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